Tetanic depression and catch-like effect in fast motor units of the rat medial gastrocnemius at linearly increasing and decreasing stimulation frequencies

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Abstract

The forces developed by fast resistant (FR) and fast fatigable (FF) motor units of the rat medial gastrocnemius during trains of electrical stimuli at linearly increasing or decreasing frequency were measured at the instantaneous frequency of 60 Hz and compared with the force evoked at a constant 60 Hz. In both motor unit types, the mean forces during stimulation at increasing frequency were depressed by 17%, while those recorded during stimulation at decreasing frequency were increased by 15% (FR) or 10% (FF) compared to values observed during constant-rate stimulation. During trains of stimuli at an increasing rate, the instantaneous frequency necessary to induce a force comparable to that produced at constant 60 Hz stimulation in FR and FF units was 84 and 88 Hz, respectively; whereas for the same units during stimulation at a decreasing rate these values were 45 and 47 Hz, respectively. When the stimulation frequency was increased up to 60 Hz and then held at this level, the force of both motor unit types was depressed by approximately 6% compared to 60 Hz constant-rate stimulation. From the available data it may be concluded that the phenomenon of tetanic depression is able to limit the development of force when the motoneuronal firing rate increases.

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